Wednesday, August 8, 2007

For the record

OK, Henry Aaron is in second place. Life goes on. The sun will come up tomorrow.

Moving right along ...

Leading up to what that guy who plays for the Giants did, plenty of radio sports-talk types were passing the time by discussing callers' opinions of unassailable records. I never did hear anyone mention John Taylor and his 1,727 consecutive innings pitched without being supplanted by a reliever. But I guess that goes without saying.

Here are some records that may or may not stand the test of time. I don't know, but I find them interesting:

• Three pitchers in the 20th century had four games in which they walked 10 or more batters, the last being Steve Barber, a talented pitcher for the Orioles in the 1960s whose career was cut short by injury. I don't foresee any of today's managers leaving anyone on the mound with those kind of control problems more than, say, once in his major-league career. Let the minor-league managers sort out all of that!

• Bert Blyleven, who for some reason is not in the Hall of Fame, won 15 shutouts by the minimum 1-0 score. That's third on the all-time list, but it isn't even half as many as Walter Johnson posted. Johnson, who entered the Hall before they opened the doors, compiled 38(!) 1-0 victories.

Nolan Ryan is co-holder of the record for most career grand slams allowed, with 10. That's understandable, considering he played in parts of 27 seasons and tossed a total of 5,386 innings. (And the last pitch he ever threw was a grand slam hit by Seattle's Dann Howitt.) Also allowing 10 grand slams was longtime reliever Mike Jackson, who pitched only 1188 1/3 innings.

• Back in the '70s and '80s, the single-season save record seemed to fall every other year. But Bobby Thigpen's 57 saves for the 1990 White Sox has stood for 17 years now.

Gene Garber, a native of Lancaster, Pa., was a fairly well-regarded relief pitcher with his nearly hometown Phillies in the mid-'70s. Then in 1978, he was shipped to Atlanta for Dick Ruthven. Garber gained some fame by retiring Pete Rose in his last at-bat to end his NL-record 44-game hitting streak that year. But the following season, Garber set a record by losing 16 games in relief for the Braves. No pitcher has lost more than 12 games in relief since.

Mike Marshall (the pitcher and doctor of kinesiology, not the mediocre outfielder) pitched 106 games in relief in 1974. That record might fall someday, to a left-handed specialist who gets about 75 innings of work from all of that. But Marshall also pitched 208 1/3 innings in relief in '74. You're not going to see that again.

• In 1919, Harry "Slim" Sallee pitched 227 innings and recorded only 24 strikeouts. Yet he managed to win 21 games for the 1919 Reds, who went on to win the World Series (which proved easier than expected when many of the White Sox were trying to lose). Sallee's unique 20-20 is a feat that should stand for the ages.

• Before the strike wiped out the last two months of the 1994 season, Bret Saberhagen had compiled these numbers for the Mets: 143 strikeouts, 13 walks. Since they moved the mound back to 60 feet, 6 inches, he is the only pitcher to score double digits in the ratio of strikeouts to walks.

Louis "Bobo" Newsom was a baseball gypsy who made Mike Morgan look like he stayed in one place; Bobo changed teams at least 16 times between 1929 and 1953. He ended up with the lowly St. Louis Browns a couple of times, and one year actually managed to win 20 games for a team that posted only 55 victories. What makes the feat even more remarkable are some of Newsom's numbers: He allowed 526 baserunners and 205 runs in 44 games. His 5.08 ERA in 1938 still is the highest in history for a 20-game winner.

• The 1972 Phillies won 59 games. Reliever Darrell Brandon managed seven victories. Wayne Twitchell had five. Some other members of the starting rotation: Woodie Fryman (4-10 before he landed in Detroit and help pitch the Tigers into the playoffs), Billy "Misnomer" Champion (4-14), Ken Reynolds (2-15) and Jim Nash (0-8 in eight starts after coming north from Atlanta. Oh, yeah. There was this Steve Carlton fellow, who reeled off 15 victories in a row on his way to a 27-10 season. His 45.8 percent of his team's total wins might be right up there with John Taylor's no-relief record.

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